#smartphones

Liam Tung on the square — yes, square — BlackBerry Passport:

According to BlackBerry, the smartphone world has been enslaved by the rectangle for too long, which may be “limiting innovations”.

BlackBerry argues that the Passport’s girth will deliver a better viewing experience, in part because it can display 60 characters per line — much closer to the 66 characters typically seen in a book, compared to the 40 or so on rectangular devices.

One advantage of its width is that users won’t need to turn the phone to landscape mode to view e-books, view documents, or browse the web.

Let’s be clear: if this thing works at all, it will be because of the physical keyboard that many old school users still clamor for, and not because of a square screen. Though I do love the assertion that it’s too hard for regular smartphone users to turn their phones to the side — where they’d get a much wider display area than this square screen will offer. 

Mat Honan on the rise of cheap smartphones, everywhere:

Clearly great features are trickling down. But what’s more interesting is how these cheap phones are going to trickle up. Put Internet-connected, app-capable smartphones running the same major operating systems the rest of us use and there will be all sorts of unforeseen ripple effects on us that we can’t even anticipate.

We tend to think of the ways our technology will affect them. That’s arrogant. We’re the minority. It’s incredibly likely that they’re going to have just as big an effect on us.

A really smart way to think about this — and exactly right, I imagine.

Eugene Wei:

We now live in that age, though it’s not the desktops and laptops but our tablets and smart phones that are the instant-on computers. Whether it’s transformed Amazon’s business, I can’t say; they have plenty going for them. But it’s certainly changed our usage of computers generally. I only ever turn off my iPad or iPhone if something has gone wrong and I need to reboot them or if I’m low on battery power and need to speed up recharging.

In this next age, anything that cannot turn on instantly and isn’t connected to the internet at all times will feel deficient.

So true. After a week on the road, I just booted my my desktop computer — it boots pretty fast, under 20 seconds, but it still seems like forever versus just hitting a button to turn on the screen of my iPhone or iPad.

I still remember the days it would take several minutes to start up a computer. And when you were supposed to shut them down after using them. Seems like ancient history.

Silencio

I almost always have my phone set to “silent” mode. The reason is simple: I don’t want to annoy those around me with a basically never-ending barrage of push notifications.1 But the past couple of days I’ve been trying out a new device, the latest Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset, and now I feel rather ridiculous given all the audible wonders I’ve been missing.

You see, with the Era in-ear and tethered to my phone, any sounds that would normally go through the speaker of the phone go right to the device. So I no longer feel bad about leaving the sound on. And now that means I get to hear not only push notification sounds, but all sounds being put to clever usage within apps. And some of them really do alter the way an app feels.

To some of you, this will be the most obvious thing in the world. But I know a lot of people are like myself and almost always have their phones set to silent. And we’re all missing a big component of many apps and the overall mobile experience.

Read More

Tim Wu:

Based on this modified Turing test, our time traveller would conclude that, in the past century, the human race achieved a new level of superintelligence. Using lingo unavailable in 1914, (it was coined later by John von Neumann) he might conclude that the human race had reached a “singularity”—a point where it had gained an intelligence beyond the understanding of the 1914 mind.

The woman behind the curtain, is, of course, just one of us. That is to say, she is a regular human who has augmented her brain using two tools: her mobile phone and a connection to the Internet and, thus, to Web sites like Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Quora. To us, she is unremarkable, but to the man she is astonishing. With our machines, we are augmented humans and prosthetic gods, though we’re remarkably blasé about that fact, like anything we’re used to. Take away our tools, the argument goes, and we’re likely stupider than our friend from the early twentieth century, who has a longer attention span, may read and write Latin, and does arithmetic faster.

As with most everything, changes viewed gradually are taken for granted. But when viewed all at once (as a time traveler might see them), a smartphone plus the internet would seem like complete and utter magic.

Jean-Louis Gassée on the topic of the AT&T CEO bitching about carrier subsidies:

I don’t know if Stephenson is speaking out of cultural deafness or cynicism, but he’s obscuring the point: There is no subsidy. Carriers extend a loan that users pay back as part of the monthly service payment. Like any loan shark, the carrier likes its subscriber to stay indefinitely in debt, to always come back for more, for a new phone and its ever-revolving payments stream.

I was told as much by Verizon. In preparation for this Monday Note, I went to the Palo Alto Verizon store and asked if I could negotiate a lower monthly payment since Verizon doesn’t subsidize my iPhone (for which I had paid full price). Brian, the pit boss, gave me a definite, if not terribly friendly, answer: “No, you should have bought it from us, you would have paid much less (about $400 less) with a 2-year agreement.” My mistake. Verizon wants to be my loan shark.

 Ben Thompson:

Make no mistake – AT&T would rather not give this discount (and that is what makes Stephenson’s remarks duplicitous); until now, smartphone customers spent some number of months paying off their phones with higher bills, and then, once the phone was paid for, postpaid subscribers effectively gave AT&T cash equivalent to their phone’s monthly payoff amount because they didn’t know any better. People who kept phones longer than two years, for example, presuming that ~$20 of every month’s bill was intended for phone payoff, effectively gave AT&T et al. $240 of pure profit in that third year. T-Mobile exposed that, and AT&T is giving some of that money back.

Right, once again we have AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson talking out of his ass. It’s not that the carrier can no longer afford the subsidies on smartphones — these costs are baked into your bill, hence the two-year contract — it’s that the smartphone market is almost saturated (in the U.S.) and others are making it difficult for AT&T to make as much money as they once did while still subsidizing phones.

What jackassery.